Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador cast one of just 37 “no” votes in the House this week on funding for reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides millions to rural, timber-dependent Idaho counties for schools and roads.
The bill passed, 392-37; Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson was among its backers. “This kind of bill represents exactly what the American people want to see out of their elected representatives,” Simpson said in a statement. “They want us to fix problems, not shout across the aisle and point fingers.”
The two-year reauthorization of the funding was included in HR 2, legislation now headed to the Senate to revamp the formula that sets reimbursement amounts for doctors who treat Medicare patients; that so-called “doc fix” has been patched by Congress each year while a permanent fix remained elusive.
Simpson, a dentist, said the move “has been the top priority for almost every Idaho medical professional who I have met with for years.” He said, “Before today’s vote, Congress had simply kicked the can down the road a total of 17 times, at great cost to taxpayers and over the strong objections of the health community.”
Labrador’s spokesman, Dan Popkey, said, “Congressman Labrador has long advocated a lasting solution for Secure Rural Schools. Attaching two years of SRS funding to a completely unrelated Medicare bill that adds $141 billion to our $18 trillion debt was unacceptable. The congressman will continue his effort to enact lasting reforms empowering rural counties to generate revenue from underutilized federal forests.”
Simpson said, “My western colleagues and I have been working tirelessly to ensure Congress address the immediate needs of Secure Rural Schools payments and I was thrilled that H.R. 2 offered the solution. By voting yes … western members were able to lend their support to one of the most important programs to our rural communities. We must now turn our attention to enacting a long-term and sustainable solution that doesn’t stick Idaho’s rural counties with the annual uncertainty of an up or down vote from Congress.”
Thirty-five of Idaho’s 44 counties receive the money. They received just $2 million this year because the program wasn’t reauthorized; a year earlier, they received $28 million. The House bill would reauthorize the program at historic levels.
On Friday, the Senate voted 52-46 for a budget framework that includes funding the program for three years; both Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch voted yes.
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